Trumpeter Jason Parker blogs at oneworkingmusician.com, and we follow each other on Twitter. He sent me this CD expressly to have it included in the project, and I’m glad he did. It’s the third release by his quartet, which includes pianist Josh Rawlings, bassist Evan Flory-Barnes and drummer D’Vonne Lewis. On three of the seven tracks, they’re joined by tenor saxophonist Cynthia Mullis.
This is a very traditional/mainstream/straight-ahead group. Parker’s approach to the horn reminds me of Lee Morgan, or the Miles Davis of the 1950s (the Blue Note and Prestige albums); there’s some fuzz around the edges sometimes, and he cracks a note here and there, but generally his tone is full and rich and bluesy. Mullis is an excellent foil for him, playing with a sharp edge that reminds me of a young Wayne Shorter, before he got all mystical ’n’ shit. And for the most part, the backing trio provide sympathetic and nimble accompaniment. There are clumsy moments here and there, like the flurry of notes with which Rawlings launches his solo on “Mance’s Dance,” but generally the performances are the work of musicians who know each other well enough to realize that jazz is a team sport, not a battle royal.
Not everything here is bluesy hard bop. “Three Hours” is a relatively free-flowing ballad that, in both melody and rhythm, reminds me of the title track from Lee Morgan’s Search for the New Land, when he was attempting to absorb some of the innovations of the John Coltrane Quartet. It’s followed by a conventional run through “Love for Sale,” though, getting the disc back into its main groove much the way a steadily gigging live band might after a particularly adventurous interlude, thus sidestepping any risk of alienating the audience.
No More, No Less ends with a terrific medley: George Gershwin’s “Summertime” blended with Wayne Shorter’s “Footprints,” over a gently swaying rhythm. Remember what I said above about Cynthia Mullis having some Shorter in her sound? Well, it really comes out here, as she takes the lead on “Footprints” and draws the group into a zone of murmuring abstraction that forces the listener to pay close attention to every note, tracking it like a cat watching a dot of light on the wall. This is a really good CD, exactly the kind of thing I was hoping to discover through this project. I recommend it unequivocally. And if this band ever tours the East Coast, I’ll be there.
1. Do I foresee myself listening to this record again? Yes.
2. Should you buy this record? Yes.
Link to purchase, if you’re so inclined…